Most of Henry’s records were made using parchment, which pre-dates paper as a writing material. Parchment is animal skin, air-dried and stretched to form a suitable writing surface. The thickness of parchment varies depending on the animal used and the area in which it was produced. Most north European parchment was made from sheep skin, although the finest quality parchment (often known as vellum) was made from calf skin.
Many of Henry’s documents can only be seen under supervision, to ensure that they are handled correctly and preserved for centuries to come. One of the problems with storing parchment is that excessive humidity can cause parchment to distort, while very dry conditions can make the parchment brittle. The National Archives’ repositories are constantly monitored to ensure that documents are stored in optimum environmental conditions.
These pictures of Valor Ecclesiasticus (E 344/23) show the texture of parchment as seen under the microscope.